Celtic Tiger 'improved life and economy'

 

Economic prosperity has boosted quality of life as well the economy itself, a new study by the Economic and Social Research Institute has concluded.

The Best of Times: The Social Impact of the Celtic Tiger in Irelandby Professor Chris Whelan suggests that people have more money in their pockets and that general poverty has declined.

"Critics of the Celtic Tiger often claim that it has enriched the economy but weakened society," Prof Whelan said.

"They say that wealth has come at the cost of wider social inequality, declining community life, too much emphasis on work and competition, a more selfish, materialist approach to life, and many other social ills.

"However this gloomy view of the social consequences of Ireland's recent prosperity is not justified by the evidence."

The book was launched this evening by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. The book brings together the work of a number of social researchers from the ESRI and other research centres in Ireland.

It presents and assesses the latest findings on the social impact of economic changes in Ireland since the early 1990s.

The research says that the stresses of too much work and of juggling jobs and family life are less socially damaging than the stresses of too little work It points out that national morale is among the highest in Europe and that social mobility has increased as more people from low-income backgrounds get higher-paid jobs.

It adds that workers are now flocking into the country for work rather than emigrating and that couples are marrying and having children at a higher rate than 15 years ago. It also claims that people's health has improved even though there are problems in the health services.

However the ESRI warned that social exclusion is still too common and the transport system and many public services could be better. Some crimes are a persistent problem while social integration and multiculturalism may yet give rise to social strains.

"However, a balanced reading of evidence on social gains and losses over the past decade or so shows that the latter clearly outweigh the former. The Celtic Tiger has not just been about the economy: even on social grounds it deserves a clearly positive evaluation," said Prof Whelan.